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May 2018

Does turmeric improve memory?

Turmeric is an increasingly popular supplement. It is often used for pain and inflammation in people with arthritis. New data shows that it also might improve memory. A small clinical study shows that taking a specific curcumin branded ingredient (Theracurmin) 90 mg by mouth twice daily for 18 months improves memory and attention in healthy, older adults. The study also shows that taking curcumin might prevent the buildup of amyloid in certain parts of the brain. The buildup of amyloid in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

While this new study is getting a lot of media attention, it’s still too soon to know if it can really help memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the patients in this recent study had age-related memory problems, but none of these patients had Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Also, the improvements seen in this recent study might not apply to all curcumin or turmeric products. An earlier study showed that taking 1-4 grams of a different curcumin product daily does not improve mental function in Alzheimer’s patients. But it’s possible that this other product was not absorbed in large enough amounts to have an effect.

Although the recent results are promising and warrant additional research, it's still too soon to recommend curcumin or turmeric for improving memory and mental function.

For more details on turmeric, check out our recently updated monograph.

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